2023 IHA 30th Anniversary ITS World Tour

On the World Path again!

It has been a few years since I have done a world tour, the last one was 2019 with the 2020 tour ending abruptly at my first stop in Spain. The world has changed a lot since then, so it will be interesting to see first hand as I lap the planet. I have already mentally prepared for travel hiccups with airlines being challenged as much as they are now. That all being said, the world tour kicks off and this is a relatively short one, 15 flights, 9 Countries and 7 weeks. Packing the bags was a challenge, normally there is a much bigger ITS Team to help out as pack mules, this time just the 4 of us to get all the Hapkido goodies across the pacific. Anyway we seem to make it work and I am on the road to Sydney Airport for what will be the longest flight I have taken, the almost 16hr flight from Sydney through to Dallas, it is one of the longer commercial flights you can take.

Flights #1 & #2 – Sydney to Dallas on QF7 & Dallas to Guadalajara on AA2313

The flight was smooth and with the connection being Qantas onto American Airlines I didn’t need to actually clear customs in the USA, the bags simply went through. Immigration was quick with no forms needed and the only questions I got was where I was going (transit) and how much USD was I carrying. So through into the USA for a moment before heading to departures, clearing security and into the AA lounge. When you travel a lot having the lounge access is a big plus, a chance to shower, Wi-Fi, a comfortable chair and usually some snacks to help pass the time. Since I was going to be here for around 4 hours it helped. I checked my SmartThings app and my bag trackers showed both bags safely crossing the airport, just in time to grab my flight in Guadalajara. The flight was a touch bumpy but arrival into Mexico just fine, no paperwork for immigration and a small form to complete for Customs after clearing Immigration. I grabbed my bags, did the custom roulette, got a green and was out the door to meet KJN Hugo. A quick drive to the hotel and a catch up with KJN Hugo about the plans, and that wrapped up just over 24 hours of travelling door to door. It was now 1am here and time to crash.

A view over Mexico on the flight in from Dallas

An easy start to the World tour with just 2 seminars today, SBN Luis and BSBN Saul picked me up for a good Brazilian style BBQ lunch, then off for coffee only to find the one we stopped at had run out of Leche Normal (Normal Milk), well light milk is really water with colouring, at least it tasted like that. Onto the seminars the topics for the night were self defence variations for kids, then street self defence for the adults. A smooth first night and some sushi for dinner to wrap up Day #1 on the road.

Kids Group

Adults Group

Today it was another chance to catch up with some of the seniors, KJN Ernesto and Erik (Provisional) picked me up and we headed off for an excellent steak restaurant at an Argentinian restaurant near my hotel. Many of those who went to the Mexican ITS might have visited it as well, the steak was huge, but as a true road warrior it had to be defeated. After the meat fest it was a drive over to Tlaquepaque for a decent coffee and wander through the tourist area before heading the to Dojang for another seminar focusing on Street Defence.

The locals always chuckle at the Aussie pronunciation of the name

Seminar group

Dinner after the seminar was at a local Black Belts new restaurant venture, called Garage Cuisine, Chicken Wings and a Prawn (Shrimp) Burger for me. The next day I caught up with KJN Hugo for lunch and in the afternoon headed out for a celebration evening, today was Mexican Independence Day and KJN had some things planned for the night. One of the common things here in Mexico is to rent a house that has been set up for parties, then you add some food, maybe a Mariachi and you are good for a celebration. KJN Hugo had done that but this house was something special with huge open grounds, a pool, and an open space that would suit training. This trip was also a chance to celebrate 10 years of Kwan Nyom in Mexico so KJN combined both for an excellent evening. His students performed a great demonstration showcasing Kwan Nyom, then onto some presentations, of course tacos and a Mariachi band. BSBN Stephanie and CGN Ben who are hosting the ITS also flew into Mexico for the weekend’s fun and got to join me for the evenings celebrations.

Party House indeed

Demonstration Team

10 Years of Excellence

Party Group

Apparently even after I had called it quits for the night the local group kept on partying, getting the mariachi to stay longer and adding in some dancing to celebrate in true fashion! The next day was a return to the mats with the Sun Bae (Senior Student training) and a focus on the senior level techniques including a break down of the Aspect: Settled vs Unsettled Weight which included some new ideas for people to work on. After the Sun Bae KJN Hugo took all of us out for a traditional Mexican meal and some site seeing downtown.

Sun Bae Group

Guadalajara @ Night #1

Guadalajara @ Night #2

Guadalajara @ Night #3

Guadalajara @ Night #4

Early the next morning Team USA grabbed the early flight home to keep working on the ITS preparations and I got a chance to visit Bosque Los Colomos which is a large park located nearby to KJN’s dojang. All the international representatives know that I try to walk a set number of steps each day, so they end up getting dragged into rain, snow, heat, etc. In this case KJN Hugo picked out a rather beautiful park for my daily stroll. The park, which is home to a number of animals, mostly tree rats (A KJN Corey term for Squirrels, that I rather like), lots of birds including on this day a Peregrine Falcon and in the Japanese themed section Koi.

Bosque Los Colomos – Japanese Section

Over the next week it was time to hit the mats for what I call a double Hell Week, a session in the morning starting at 9am, and then another session in the evening starting at 6pm. The focus was on Black Belt material and the attendees where about 80% Black Belt ranks, a few Provisional and a lonely Green Belt who toughed out the week. Enjoy a few pictures of the excellent week spent on the mats

Hell Week Group

What could go wrong wearing a Blue Dobok….

Ki Dae Dojang signage

Hell Week Ground and Pound

The Hell Week squad represents

Hell Week locking on

Hell Week – Weapons in the house!

Hell Week is certifiable

All packaging now has to state Calories and Sugar content, apparently even tonic water is excessive…

The flavoured water stand, where I got to try a new one Mamey

Instructor promotion – Congrats CGN Yunuen

2nd Degree promotion – Congrats KSN Angel

I still get a kick out of being on a poster!

Fuel here is more expensive than Australia, even with far far lower wages

Welcome to ‘Not’ food

That wrapped up another good trip to Mexico, a special congratulations to KJN Hugo on the 10th anniversary of Kwan Nyom here. It was a good overall visit and I look forward to returning and helping build the next 10 years. An easy check in for my 2 flights today, firstly into Dallas with a 4 hour layover and then onto Charlotte and the ITS. The first flight was smooth, US immigration was its normal dour self and my bags were picked up for the walk through an empty customs before being transferred to my next flight. I then had to re clear security and the line was impressive with the sign giving us a 30min wait. That abruptly changed when they got the dogs involved and we were allowed to clear security with our shoes on and everything in our bags if the dog let us pass.

Got to love the waiting times.

So being a frequent flyer has its perks and one that one I am grateful for is lounge access, a place to relax, get Wi-Fi, access to a power socket, clean toilets and some food is always welcomed. As I was entering the American Airlines lounge (Partner with Qantas) they told me that with my status I could use the better Flagship lounge, well who is say no, and off I go. I was still a little amazed I was let in, but as I entered a lady offered a glass of champagne, this is a change. The lounge was impressive, a greater range of food, a impressive open self-serve bar, and even a cook on hand making fresh Texas Chili.

The open bar in the Flagship lounge

An interesting choice of places on the pull down menu in the lounge

A view over Texas on the flight to Charlotte, very different to the Mexican one.

Flights #3 & #4 –  Guadalajara to Dallas on AA1174 & Dallas to Charlotte on AA522

Now that I am back in the ‘South’, well it may be north of Mexico but it is still called the South in the US, I got a chance to grab some local BBQ with Master Dave, BSBN Stephanie and CGN Ben. I also had to have another drink of one of the local Soft Drinks – Cheerwine. Checking into the hotel was easy and the rooms where spacious and comfortable, it was also the hub of activity where you were guaranteed to bump into members of team IHA from all over the world. Team Spain started up the Uno challenge and managed to get most of the group into some dubious gameplay, there are rumours of one of the seniors seen in a pink onesie around the hotel after playing against Team Spain. Needless to say the energy was high and the camaraderie was excellent.

Team Spain and the Uno challenge

Cheerwine a local delicacy

First on the schedule for the ITS was the Sun Bae or Senior Belt training which is open for all Red Belts and above. All the standard events are being held at Ma’am Stephanie and Sir Ben’s Dojang, with the Masters training happening at a nearby venue where the celebration dinner will also be held. One corner of the Dojang has been turned into a ‘Merch’ shop with items from all the international locations attending. It was a good start to the week with some senior Aspects covered as well as most of the Kwan Nyom Tools. It was around now that the whispers of what would become the ‘Bag Saga’ were heard in the Dojang. Apparently Julian (part of team pack mule Australia), well it was a bit like that, with such a small Team Australia, I needed all their help in getting the sheer number of items to the ITS so each member was travelling with extra bags or gear to help. Julian had one of my spare bags and it seems it failed to make the trip to Charlotte along with his bag as well. He headed to the hotel to make some calls and the Saga was underway, luckily his Dobok was in his carry on so he could still enjoy the training. CGN Katherine had brought in some Australian Snacks and everyone liked the Caramello Koalas and Chicken Parmesan Shapes.

The Hapkido Outlets

Sun Bae Group

Thirsty Anyone?

Now it was day #1 of Hell Week and kick day. We covered all the kicking requirements through the syllabus and then had a bonus guest seminar with SBN Erik from Norway. It was a good day on the mats, students were picking up their ITS gear, T-shirts, temporary tattoos, wrist bands, IHA Pin and more. Of course the Bag Saga continued, Julians flight details showed the bag was in Boston but amongst a few more calls it was determined that the bag was indeed enjoying a holiday in Hawaii. Hopefully it would be joining us sometime later today and on the mats for day #2.

Hell Week Day #1 – Standing Room Only

Hell Week Day #1 – Complete

After each days training Team IHA would head out for dinner at different restaurants or do some local sightseeing, many using the nearby running trails for some extra exercise. The small town near the hotel was called Birkdale and it was one of those quiet, picturesque and affluent type places. Of course everyone would end up in the hotel foyer for the nights gaming challenges. A late update was received, Julian had indeed recovered the missing bags and the local students cheered, well at least those waiting on the goodies he had carried for them. He was going to bring it to the training in the morning.

Birkdale @ Night

The ITS is in Town!

Day #2 of Hell Week and the focus shifted from the legs to the hands with Striking being on the agenda. Of course, we stood by waiting on a Bag update, and we were not surprised when we heard there was an issue, the bag had been locked in one of the local students cars along with their key. Could the bag be cursed, will it ever actually make it to the ITS? Eventually it did, and their was peace again at the ITS, needless to say we hope it is more successful on the way home as it will be bringing the ITS T-shirts back to Australia. As well as a mat filled with strikes, the guest seminar today was covered by SBN Sherri from Minnesota, USA.

Is the Bag Saga over finally?

Hell Week Day #2 – Keeping the mats filled

Hell Week Day #2 – Complete

I hope they do better maths on the inside

Wednesday was an open day with no mat time on the schedule, it would allow many of the internationals to experience some of the local attractions, one team heading off into nature at Chimney Rock and another doing the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte tour. A chance for me to get some work done before returning to the mats for more excellent Hapkido.

The new Corvette, only a cool 100k and not the top model!

Day #3 of Hell Week, the focus was now hands on with Basic self defence and a guest instructor session from SBN Pertsa. It was unknown to most but SBN ‘Hey Man’ Pertsa was indeed an under cover Finnish showman and his session brought the house down. It is always fun to see how instructors do when thrown onto the mats to take classes and SBN did an excellent job. To make sure the day wasn’t full enough I ran an IHA Instructors course in the afternoon/early evening.

The ITS energy was contagious

Hell Week Day #3 – Complete

Day #4 and it was time to wrap up the self defence, it was lucky we had no guest instructor locked as we needed the time to finish all the coloured belt material. Whilst taking the day off mid week was a great break and a chance for many to do some local sight seeing it also put pressure on covering the material, some lessons learnt for the next ITS.

Could there be a hint of Halloween in the air?

Hell Week Day #4 – Complete

It was an excellent week and the numbers were just perfect for the space, the right body heat, still room to work and the energy was great. Everything ran smoothly and the ITS component being held at Team Causby’s Dojang was now wrapped with a shift to a nearby venue for the Master’s Day and Celebration Dinner. We dropped by the venue to make sure all was ready and who else can say they did a Hapkido seminar with drapes and a chandelier?

The Calm before the storm but in style

The Masters day kicked off and were running 3 sessions at once with the adults inside and the kids split up outside by age. The instructors rotated between the 3 mats and everyone got a chance to try some training from the seniors, having the 5th Degree’s and above teaching on the adults mat. There were a lot of laughs with the instructors being a little creative, whether it was the plethora of throat striking techniques, well at one point all 3 mats were teaching a version of them, or having the parents join in with their kids hitting them, of course the question about whether the 4yr olds were up to back-falling on the concrete summed it up. No Hapkidoists were harmed during the Masters day, and everyone got their posters signed and left with big smiles if also tired bodies.

Team ITS

Team ITS Black Belts

Autograph anyone?

A brief break for everyone to freshen up and then return for the Celebration dinner. On the menu tonight was some Southern BBQ with Pulled Pork, BBQ Chicken and all the trimmings. The noise seemed to reflect the camaraderie gained from a good week and the night went smoothly. Of course there were some announcements, as well as a chance to thank all those in front and behind the scenes. I also had the chance to give out the grading results with Master Dave earning his 6th Degree and BSBN Kris her 3rd , with CGN Satu also completing her Instructors course. It was then over to the screening of my somewhat short Thai Boxing career and the announcement of the final ITS, #10! We are off to Thailand for ITS10 which should put an amazing finish to this series of events. Of course, the night wasn’t over yet and my final announcement was to recognise KJN Corey as a Master of Kwan Nyom Hapkido.

Caking it up in Style

Congratulations Master Dave, CGN Satu and BSBN Kris

Congratulations Master Corey!

The next day started with a busy morning as teams and students headed home, a few travelling onwards for some extra sightseeing. Ma’am Stephanie and Sir Ben arranged to me to tick off a bucket list item with a NFL game, surprisingly with Minnesota playing North Carolina. It was a spectacle indeed, with the stadium able to seat up to 75,000. I was lucky that I sun screened up as well as a thankful gesture from someone in the crowd giving me a hat to help with the sun.

Minnesota Vikings vs The Carolina Panthers @ the Bank of America stadium

NFL Hotdog

The next day It was time to get back on the road with 2 flights, from Charlotte into London, a 5 hour stopover and then London to Amsterdam. The first flight went well, too little sleep on the red eye, and of course the 5 hours in London was dragging on until I noticed that my transatlantic flight had pushed me into Platinum status. Time to try the British Airways first class lounge, where most of it was the same, but the food and drink selections were far superior. The flight into Amsterdam was delayed and then we sat on the tarmac for almost an hour, but finally touchdown Europe. I had to chuckle as I queued for immigration as numerous English people kept getting pushed out of the Eu line and back into the general one, ahh the fall out of Brexit continues.

Flights #5 & #6 – Charlotte to London on AA 732 & London to Amsterdam on BA 432

Hello Europe and The Netherlands


I find my hotel and the steps of doom, when you are dragging along 2 large 20kg plus bags you don’t enjoy steps or narrow halls, so of course this hotel had both. I need to bring a Sherpa with me for challenges like this, needless to say after all the travelling this was the perfect way to guarantee a good night’s sleep. The next day was free so a chance to get the trip report up to date, complete some signatures and enjoy an excellent Michelin starred restaurant.

Steps of Doom

The Dutch at the Tallest by average height in the world, and have the smallest cars

My short stop in the Amsterdam complete and Master Ron and BSBN Marcel dropped by the hotel to pick me up, it was good to have the assistance getting the bags down the steps, I think both of them appreciated the challenge. A smooth drive south to Tilburg and I checked into my next Hotel, unpacked my bags, handed off some more goodies I was carrying (Passports, badges, pins, shirts, etc) and got ready for the evenings testing. Tonight we had a Spirit test for 4 of the local students and following that BSBN Marcel would be testing for his 4th Degree. The spirit test went well and team “Fantastic Four” were successful in joining the IHA Black Belt family.

Team Fantastic Four Spirit Test

The next day was open, and Master Ron had arranged some sight seeing at a local exhibition, a journey to the Retro Future, Evolution. The building started off the experience being almost like a flying saucer in shape, that continued inside with several exhibits and included a DeLorean (Back to Future car) parked out back. As part of the visit, we also got a chance to take the time travel VR tour which included harnesses and being lifted into the air as part of the show. I will say though the building and displays were interesting, but the onsite café was lacking.

Spaceship Earth

Retro Future

Step Back Citizen

For dinner Master Ron had organized a schnitty, well they might not call it that here, but we were off to a local pub for a Schnitzel that didn’t fully fit on the plate, I took the one with Satay sauce and it was a thumbs up. After dinner we headed over to the Dojang for the Sun Bae which included some Concept linking between Dan Bong and Penkido, as well as a celebration of the IHA’s 30th Anniversary, including some local Dutch treats included the Chocolate Ball of Death, well that’s not its Dutch name, more like a round chocolate éclair filled with cream and almost the size of a small babies head.

Dutch Schnitty

Master Ron’s Dojang

Dojang ala 30th Anniversary

Team Sun Bae

30th Anniversary Gift

The next day was the first full day of training with the seminar at BSBN Marcel’s Dojang, there was a good group and we worked on the S Lock family, Clinch Defence, Close Range Kicking, Amplified locks and more. We had some guests from Judo/Jiu Jitsu as well as another Hapkido school and Master Henrie joined us for the day. At the end of the session, I was pleased to welcome our newest SBN with Sir Marcel being promoted to 4th Degree.

Day #1 Seminar Group

Congratulations SBN Marcel

Dinner included some fire

Onto the second day and we were back to the Sport Hall for round of seminars, this time we had some external guests join us from Krav Maga and now SBN Marcel got a chance to try out the new Black Jacket. On the mats we covered easy way to overcome strength, choke defences, hand attacks and then coverage of all the updated techniques in the curriculum. A couple of non-martial art things I noticed; the idea of self service has gone even further in shopping here. I entered a grocery type store in Amsterdam, and it had auto gates to enter, and no clear way out except through some other gates that only opened after you scanned your purchase receipt, since I didn’t buy anything, I was basically trapped, apparently there is normally a staff member to scan you out, it took me a while to find one and escape… They also have a small scanner you pick up on entry and you can pre scan your items as you collect them to save time at the check out, ahh the future is here. Another interesting note, the petrol/gas station near Master Ron’s house has a happy hour where fuel is 5% or more cheaper.

Day #2 Seminar Group

Self Service

Happy Hour

Back on the road after a very successful visit with Team IHA Netherlands, today I was calling it Planes. Trains and Automobiles Day. Master Ron drove me to the Train station, where I caught 3 trains, well the middle one broke down, then a flight to Sweden and another car to my hotel. I had been to Sweden before but only briefly so this time I have a couple of days to look around as well as a booking at one of the World’s top restaurants.

Hitting the Tracks

Flight #7 – Amsterdam to Stockholm on SAS SK556

Stockholm at Night

Stockholm by day 1

Stockholm – Palace #1 (IHA Blue)

Stockholm – Palace #2

Stockholm – Palace #3

Stockholm – Palace #4

Stockholm – Palace #5

Stockholm – Palace #6 (New Rep meeting room?)

The Evilness of Pumpkin Spice has reached Sweden

Stockholm by day 2

A taste of Sushi – Otoro (Tuna Belly) and Caviar

Must be Meatballs time

Is it a fighting school or drug dispensary?

The night arrived for what was to be a culinary journey to remember. Some of the Representatives had decided to give me the excellent 30th Anniversary gift of an amazing meal. So, I was off to enjoy Frantzen, a 3 Michelin starred restaurant and one of the world’s absolute best. The Booking was made over 2 months ago and the restaurant is 523sq metres (5,600 sq foot) over 3 floors and only takes 23 people for dinner each evening. It would be hard to use words to sum up this evening, but the meal easily makes it onto my top 10 of all time, from the beginning to the end it was excellent, the food, the environment, service and experience was all amazing. It starts on one floor with a number of small bites before being shown what is on the menu in box, then a visit to the test kitchen and wine cellar before heading to the dinner room which sits around an open kitchen where the chefs craft the main portion of the meal. I will be adding most of the pictures to a folder on my Facebook so as not to spam the trip report. But here are a couple from the evening. Thank you for such a memorable gift!

Frantzen #1 – What’s for Dinner?

Frantzen #2 – Chefs at work, or Artists Crafting?

Frantzen #3 – Food or Art?

A very nice visit to Stockholm, I made sure to visit the Australian Consulate and postal vote, looked around the city, sampled the food, it is a clean, organized city, with lots of electric cars, people were polite and the place had a relaxed vibe. Still time to move onwards with the short hop across to Norway and Team IHA Vikings.

Flight #8 – Stockholm to Oslo on SAS SK495

SBN Erik picked me up from the airport in his Tesla, and yes there are probably even more Electric cars in Oslo than anywhere else in Europe. Silent death for those crossing the wrong way, but overall, it makes for a quieter city, it does seem a little strange with the quieter traffic hum. A quick check in to the hotel, and it was time to do a drop in at the normal Hapkido class for an appearance. Dinner was late the option was some street hot dogs from the central train station, for those imagining I only frequent the Michelin restaurants of the world, I imagine I celebrate more meals at places like the Hot Dog stand than at a Fine dining establishment, I just don’t share all those pictures….

Michelin 3* one night, Street Hot Dogs the next

Interesting sculpture

IsBeef is strong in Norway

The next day was free, so I got stuck into the signatures and updated the trip report, SBN Erik dropped in and we enjoyed a very nice lunch at a Norwegian restaurant together. Shihan Anthony and some of the Romanian students were heading in later in the day so I was aiming to catch up with him for dinner. I met up with Shihan and we walked a bit looking for dinner, I had chosen a Vietnamese place as I was aware that he had limited options for any Asian Cuisines in Brasov.

Where else would you find a Giant Hammer?

The next day kicked off the seminars and I worked on basic concepts as a refresher for the local students then took them into variations and some ‘fun’ stuff. Always makes me chuckle when we use fun stuff to talk about techniques that invariably hurt more… Just another one of those unique to Hapkido states of mind.

Norway Seminar Group

Norwegian Palace

A view across Oslo

A touch of Australiana

Oslo wanderings #1

Hmm, oat?

Oslo wanderings #2

It was a good visit to Oslo, the students worked hard and it was good to have some of Team Romania visiting. As always SBN Erik and KJN Carlos made sure it was a smooth and enjoyable visit. I also got the chance to grab a home cooked meal with KJN Carlos and we talked about how he was going with his fight against Cancer (An update, he was officially declared cancer free the following week). The visit wrapped up and SBN Erik dropped me at the airport for my next flight, this time into the deep South of Europe and Team Espana (Spain).

Flight #9 & #10 – Oslo to Madrid on IB3497 and Madrid to Seville on IB3948

Now it looks straight forward with 2 flights on Iberia, but they weren’t on the same booking as the main flight is part of my round the world ticket and the smaller leg a separate purchase, of course you would imagine that they could link them. Well, no, collect your bags in Madrid, hoof it up to departures and check back in. Sometimes you think we have access to modern technology, other times we are rechecking in. I made the change and got my flight into Seville to meet up with KJN Jose and BSBN Eloy at the now partially renovated Seville airport (featuring a Starbucks, no less).

Old School Markets #1

Old School Markets #2

Each morning KJN Jose and BSBN Eloy would pick me up for breakfast before some running around, lunch a break and nightly seminars. The kids seminars included some basic material, and for a laugh I had them working on some weaponry concepts. Overall, the little maggots, ahh kids, did well and seemed to enjoy the mat time. With the adults we ran a split curriculum, by teaching White belt self defence and having the White to Green work that, then running through the Blue and having the Blue+ work those. Each day I went up a grade and split the class accordingly.

Little Maggots, oops smaller kids group

Could there be a Black Belt grading in the air?

The best Churros in Seville


On one of the mornings instead of a standard Spanish breakfast we had to try the ‘best’ Churros in town, run by the same family for almost a 100 years and over 4 generations. I will say the actual Churros are on the plainer side but the combination with the Chocolate worked really well. Not sure it is what I would have for breakfast normally though. A representative from the local Government also stopped into present me with the official town flag in recognition of my seminars and the 30th anniversary world tour.

Recognition from the local Government

Would you buy Hapkido from these men?

Bigger kids group

Ground and Pound

Adults Group

Where else do you put an IHA pin?

Along with the normal seminars there was a Sun Bae and a separate seminar just for the parents. It was a full week with lots of different events happening each day, including a visit to a possible new Dojang location for KJN Jose. One evening after class I was surprised with a 30th Anniversary party which included some home cooked 30th themed food as well as a cool banner. The local students are very community minded, setting up tables in the Dojang and everyone bringing in home cooked foods.

Parents group

Sun Bae Group

Possible new Dojang

30th Anniversary party #1

30th Anniversary party #2

During the week there was also a slight hiccup with some stormy weather, couple of of the nights the winds were quite severe, and thousands of tree branches were torn off and spread all over the city, coupled with more rain than normal had a few of the locals worried. KJN was fielding questions about whether the seminars would continue, of course. If a Typhoon at the Mexican ITS couldn’t stop us neither would some puny storm.

Seville is storming.

Seville @ night

Literal translation – Punch on Face street

Following the rules!

Things you see around Seville

Black Soul 50%

Black Soul other 50%

Alcala del Rio wanderings

That’s how they spelt Geoff

Over the week the Black Belt candidate team “Black Souls”, no idea why that name, were on deck training hard. Running Black Jacks between the seminars with the other local students urging them on. It definitely felt like a Spirit test was coming to town. The test itself was split into 2 groups as there wasn’t enough space or Black Belts on hand to test 10 at once, the first group on deck whilst the other group enjoyed some time in a nearby park, swapping over once the first team completed their test. As we were doing a split group, the decision was made to do the presentations the following night with all the candidates together at the same time. A big night for IHA Spain with the promotion of 10 new first degree black belts. I also had the chance to recognise KSN Paula on her promotion to Senior Instructor.

Congratulations Team Black Soul

Congratulations KSN Paula – Senior Instructor

A new type of Black Belt celebration

The visit was a good one for the IHA, both with the energy and the quality of the students. The Spirit test was a big step up on past testing and the candidates definitely prepared well for it. A thank you to KJN Jose and BSBN Eloy for their great work here in Spain. I know they are already working towards taking a record Spanish team to ITS #10. The morning rolled around too soon and I was again on the road, today was a long day, leaving the hotel at 7am with a projected arrival into Helsinki around 11pm. The silly Seville to Madrid flight with baggage collection in Madrid to recheck in before my flight into London to connect to a Finnair flight into Helsinki. At least some time in the Iberia lounge to get the trip report up to date!

Flights #11, #12 & #13 – Seville to Madrid on IB3947, Madrid to London on IB3172 and London to Helsinki on AY1338

The flight into London went smoothly and the connection time was ok if on the slightly tight side, no need to worry as the Finnair flight was going to be delayed. As mentioned previously I had earned enough status credits to get Platinum with Qantas which also carried with it Emerald (highest) status within the One World Alliance. This meant that I had a choice of lounges to visit and after checking out a quick guide on the best ones, I headed off to the Cathay Pacific First lounge, very nice, a ala carte dining area with some nice food, then to make sure I sampled all the good options, I took a walk through the Business class section and then onto the Qantas lounge for some of the world famous Salt and Pepper Squid in their Ala carte restaurant section. I could get used to this level of travelling. The Finnair flight eventually departed, and I arrived into Helsinki to meet Master Tapio just before midnight. A long day on the road. It was 1:30am by the time I was checked in and ready for some sleep, the morning arrived far to early and I was in the Dojang for day one on the mats in Helsinki.

Hotel or Castle?

I had 4 days on the mats here in Finland with a number of missions, first up to go over the coloured belt requirements covering the new updates and to refresh everyone on the techniques. It had been four and a half years since I had been on the ground in Finland. During the visit I also had a Senior Black Belt test as well as a Spirit test to run. Apart from those I was also booked for the evenings with a Dinner with Master Adrian, the Federation members and a celebration dinner. A full plate here in Helsinki.

Autumn in Finland

The White Church

One of the teams from the Day training

Duck @ Le Coin

There federation dinner was planned to be held at Le Coin which is a new restaurant headed up by Chef Eero Suhonen who happens to be SBN Jaakko’s brother. It was a good evening with lots of good food and laughter, mainly coming from Chef Eero who kept us all entertained during the meal. I was keeping up the walking steps but I have to confess the somewhat cold weather with wind chill was making it a challenge, Master Tapio helped out with a ‘Bad Boy’ Beanie to keep my head warm at least.

Team Sisu

Finns on the ground

Someone was checking up on the techniques.

The Black Belt test day rolled around and first up was the senior testing with 3 candidates working towards their 2nd Degree. The test went smoothly and the candidates would get the news on Sunday after the final seminar. A brief break and then another seminar before moving onto the afternoon’s Spirit test where Team ‘Sisu’ would be attempting to earn their Kwan Nyom 1st Degree’s. Talk about a Hapkido packed day. I am pleased to announce that team Sisu all earned their Black Belts, welcome to the Black Belt family, CGN’s Petri, Aake and Petri. That evening we headed off to a nearby restaurant to celebrate.

The seminar group from before the Black Belt test

The after-test group

The next day the seminar was on street weaponry featuring Penkido, Card Sul and Bag Fu. Everyone enjoyed the weaponry concepts and took away some new material for their personal Hapkido tool boxes. I know many of the Black Belts were adding to their variations throughout the seminar. At the end I had the pleasure of promoting 3 new KSN’s Ansi, Marko, and Satu. Ansi also completed his requirements to be recognised as a Senior Instructor and CGN Teemu earned his Instructor Certification. A very successful way to wrap up an excellent return to Finland. Plans are already being put in place to make next year even more successful.

Congratulations to the new 2nd Degrees, Senior Instructor and Instructor promotions.

The mats are quiet as the Hapkido portion of the 2023 World Tour is complete.

Finland was just sneaking in some snow as I left

Of course, there is no rest for the wicked as I was up early on Monday morning to head to a print shop to get all the Black Belt certificates printed before heading to the airport. Master Tapio picked me up and dropped me off for my next flight. This would be my second flight with Finnair and the first long haul so I was looking forward to seeing what that was like. I did of course enjoy visiting the “Platinum Wing” part of the lounge and ordered a Reindeer Burger for lunch.

Reindeer Burger

Pizza vending machine…..

Business Class for sale, I am sure its cheap

The flight went smoothly and the service from Team Finnair was good. I would have no problems flying with them again, touchdown Thailand and it was straight into the pre-arranged car for the 3 hours drive south to Hua Hin. Now that is a bit wearing to say the least, still it went relatively well apart from some torrential rain on the way, and of course arriving to the hotel to find out my room was yet ready, so I set up the laptop near the pool, connected to the Wi-Fi and wrapped up the Trip report.

Flight #14 – Helsinki to Bangkok on AY141

Good morning Thailand

Trip report update Thai style

So Hua Hin is a beach side town so I needed to make sure to visit the beach at least once for a photo, sadly the trip had taken its toll on this road warrior and I got to enjoy a bout of the travel flu,  Hua Hin and Bangkok became more than just a ITS 2025 preparation stop, they became a chance to spend some down time in my hotel rooms. I did sneak out for a nice meal one evening as well as a meeting with a possible ITS hotel location.

Hua Hin Beach

What do they grow in the Thai Boxing Garden?

Lots of Martial Art based signage around here

Some tasty scallops

A most excellent steak

So, after spending the much-needed quiet time recovering from the Travel Flu it was time to jump on my last flight of the 2023 World Tour. It was an action-packed return to the road with the ITS and lots of testing across the Dojangs. Overall, a good tour and plans are already locked in for the 2024 World Tour. As always, a thank you to all the hosts, Instructors, Black Belts and IHA Students for making such a thing possible let alone so enjoyable. To the team at home, you are all the A-Team making sure that the Dojang kept running well. Some statistics below give you a final snapshot of this relatively quick lap of the globe.

Flight #15 – Bangkok to Sydney on QF 24

– 2023 ITS World Tour Stats –

1 – 3rd Degree Black Belt

1 – 4th Degree Black Belt

1 – 6th Degree Black Belt

1 – Kwan Nyom Master

1 – Platinum Frequent Flyer Status Earning (Qantas)

4 – 2nd Degree Black Belts

6 – Currencies (USD, MXN, SEK, NOK, EUR, THB)

6 – Airlines Flown (Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways, Scandinavian, Iberia, Finnair)

9 – Countries (USA, MEX, UK, NL, SWE, NOR, SPN, FIN, TH)

15 – Flights

17 – 1st Degree Black Belts

57 – Days long

67 – Hours spent in the Air Flying

965 – Qantas Status Credits Earned

61250 – Qantas Points Earned